A petition for warning signs to be posted at California’s Lake Piru is quickly racking up signatures after Glee actress Naya Rivera, 33, went missing there earlier this week.
The Change.org petition with more than 25,000 signatures is addressed to Lake Piru, the surrounding Ventura County and the state of California. “Naya Rivera is not the first, nor the last to go missing at Lake Piru,” it reads, describing the body of water as “a very deep lake with very bad whirlpools.”
“People have been asking for years for the city to put up warning signs for swimmers,” it continues. “Locals of Ventura County don’t go to Lake Piru for this reason! Tourist have no idea what they’re getting into. Lake Piru needs signs. We’re tired of waiting. We need justice for all those who got lost at Lake Piru...”
Yahoo Entertainment could not reach the author of the petition for comment and a spokesperson from the Lake Piru Recreation Center declined to comment when asked by Yahoo Entertainment.
Rivera, 33, is presumed dead after she went missing at the lake on Wednesday. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department confirmed her disappearance on Thursday via Twitter. This week, the department shared a Twitter video that showed the water’s murkiness at 30-feet deep and on Saturday tweeted, “The search for Naya Rivera continues at Lake Piru.”
2/2 Here’s an example of the underwater visibility at a 30-foot depth in Lake Piru. pic.twitter.com/YGNNUdmPQ4— Ventura Co. Sheriff (@VENTURASHERIFF) July 11, 2020
According to an incident report posted online by the sheriff’s office, Rivera rented a boat at the lake Wednesday afternoon and went out on the water with her four-year-old son. “The boat was found drifting in the northern portion of the lake with the child alone and asleep onboard,” the report reads. “Rivera’s son told investigators that he and his mother had been swimming in the lake, and he got back in the boat, but Rivera did not.”
Approximately 100 people are searching for Rivera in what is now a recovery mission. “Investigators believe Rivera drowned in what appears to be a tragic accident,” the report says.
In a press conference Thursday, Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Donoghue said, “In the lake, the visibility is terrible. This particular lake, in that area, there’s a lot of trees and plants and such that are under the water that can cause entanglements. It makes it unsafe for the divers and makes a more complicated search.”
He also had this chilling message: “If the body is entangled in something beneath the water, it may never come back up.”
Related: Sonar, divers search for Naya Rivera at Lake Piru
Douglas West, who was Lake Piru’s parks and recreation services manager told the Los Angeles Times in 2000, that there were about a dozen drownings during the 23 years he worked there. Most cases involved poor swimmers who did not wear safety jackets or who swam in restricted portions of the lake.
Rivera’s disappearance raises important questions about water safety, especially in rivers and lakes.
“Rivers and lakes can be especially dangerous because people often don’t know [their depth] or what the currents are,” Dr. Erin Muckey, medical director of the emergency department at Rutgers University Hospital, tells Yahoo Celebrity. “There are more unknowns with a lake or river than there are with pools.”
“It only takes seconds for someone to quietly slip beneath the surface of the water,” Shawn P. DeRosa, a water safety expert and the owner of DeRosa Aquatic Consulting, tells Yahoo Life. “There the drowning process begins and, unless that person is quickly recovered to the surface and provided support so they can breathe, the end result could be a fatal drowning.” Even if someone recovered, they may suffer life-long effects of oxygen deprivation, he says.
Here’s what experts recommend when it comes to water safety around lakes and rivers
Basic water safety rules apply, like not going into the water without a life vest if you don’t know how to swim, but there are some additional recommendations for lakes and rivers.
Wear a life vest, even if you can swim
“This is the number one thing,” Dr. Eric Adkins, an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life. “You can’t see the bottom, you don’t know how deep it is, and there’s almost an infinite amount of space you can migrate into above or below the surface. Having a life vest on at all times when you’re on the water is going to protect you.”
Don’t dive into the water
“This is so important,” Muckey says. “Even if you can see the bottom, do not dive headfirst into bodies of water. You may think it’s deeper than it is.” Diving into water increases your risk of getting entangled in something on the bottom of the lake or river, as well as raises your risk of a spinal cord injury. If that happens, she says, people “may not be able to swim back out.”
Try to asses the water conditions before getting in
Lakes can have debris, rocks, and plants below the surface that can lead to entanglement. That’s why this step is so crucial. “Always inspect the conditions beneath the surface of the water,” DeRosa says.
Read warning signs
These aren’t always as informative as they could be, but Muckey says that something is often better than nothing. “Any kind of signage or information for the public that they are going near an area that’s more dangerous is important,” she says.
Avoid alcohol and drugs
“A lot of people like to go out with some beverages, but it’s not a good idea,” Adkins says. “And definitely no drugs.” Being intoxicated can raise the odds you’ll engage in risky behavior, like diving off of a boat, he says, and that can lead to serious injury.
Be mindful of your surroundings before you get into the water
If you’re on a boat, Adkins recommends being especially careful of where the propeller is located, as well as any slippery areas on the deck where you could slip and fall.
Use the buddy system
“Be out there with somebody else, if that’s possible,” Adkins says. “That person can be a second set of eyes and almost like your own lifeguard. They can see what’s happening and try to come to your rescue if you get in trouble.”
Muckey stresses that some injuries and deaths are “100 percent preventable,” adding, “it’s so important to practice water safety.”
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